The first of Four Deaths
Continuing the quest to break through my fear of engaging targets as a solo pilot, I spent part of last weekend roaming through Placid in Fjögur Dauðsföll (Four Deaths), my shiny new Tristan.
I didn’t have to travel far before I ran into a bright red, flashy Rifter on the Agoze gate in Ostingele. Taking advantage of the relative security offered me by the gate guns in this situation, I observed the ship to see what I could learn. I don’t do this often, because I don’t often need the information, but I thought it would give me a bit of information about this potential target. I noted the spinning barrels indicative of autocannons but nothing else useful.
The Rifter pilot, Thestarling, wasn’t doing much of anything and I assumed he was waiting for me to make the first move — so I obliged. I set up an orbit around him at my optimal range and engaged a warp scrambler, stasis webifier and all of my weaponry. I noted, with regret, that he wasn’t firing back — but I didn’t halt my onslaught. When the Rifter was at about 50% armor, he jumped.
I waited for my aggression timer to tick down and jumped after him, assuming he had decided I wasn’t worth fighting and moved on. When I arrived in Agoze he was still in system but not on the gate. I struck up a conversation in local scolding him for fleeing. I warped around the system looking for any sign of the Rifter, but was unable to locate it. So I parked myself on the Intaki gate and continued to chatter.
For a time I was joined on the gate by a Ishuk-Raata Enforcement Directive Taranis who orbited the gate with me. While we flew in lazy circles around the gate a few other I-RED pilots jumped back and forth patrolling for hostile targets. Knowing that I-RED follows the Not Red Don’t Shoot engagement policy, and that I had never initiated hostilities with them, I wasn’t too worried. I was hoping my friend in the Rifter would show up again. And he did.
When he showed up, though, he was at a tactical bookmark off the gate. It wasn’t worth burning up to him to engage, especially with the I-RED pilots likely willing to engage such a criminal. Eventually the Taranis chased him away and I decided I should get moving. I made a few more jumps and then circled back around to Agoze — when I arrived back in Agoze, all the I-RED pilots had left and Thestarling was still in system, so I struck up the conversation again.
I positioned myself at a station and let him know where I was. Eventually he arrived — but again he was far out of reach. So I headed toward him, slowly. He engaged his engines as well and we were both moving toward each other across the 140 km of empty space; though neither of us engaged our speed modules. I didn’t want him to be certain that I was afterburner fit, and I assume he was trying to keep his fitting a secret as well. So we moved slowly toward one another.
With all of the attention Rifters receive, I had doubts about my ability to win the fight and during the long flight out I pondered fleeing the scene. There wasn’t much he could do to stop me with the station guns on my side. But I stayed on intercept course anyway — running would have been a wasted opportunity; this time I was prepared to lose my ship in glorious single combat.
When the distance was less than 20 km I plotted a course for an orbit at what I considered optimal for my ship — about 8 km — which would give me some margin for error with my warp scrambler and stasis webifier and then I engaged my afterburner. And the Rifter was in range of my warp scrambler, I engaged all offensive systems. Very quickly the Rifter was into armor and I knew I was fighting an armor variant, but my Tristan soon dipped past shields as well. Both of our armor repair systems kicked in and I knew the fight wasn’t yet decided. I toggled the overload for all of my weapons, my afterburner and my small armor repairer and simply hoped — we were both fully committed to the engagement.
His hull finally buckled and the little Rifter exploded. I took a moment to note that flames were trailing from my Tristan yet its sturdy Gallente hull was still at 50%. I quickly scooped what remained of his modules and docked for repairs, thanking him in local for a good fight and my first real one-versus-one kill.
With this first solo victory under my belt, I headed for home and pondered how I had managed to pull it off. So when I arrived at my home port, I started analyzing the fight with all the tools at my disposal.
The initial conditions clearly favored me because his negative security status and the ominous station guns meant I could engage when I chose or simply warp off if I didn’t think I could get into a favorable position. With the early position established and both a stasis webifier and warp scrambler, I could ensure I stayed outside of his optimal range while well within my own. Though the Rifter is faster than the Tristan, the disparity isn’t enough for it to claw into a favorable position before being torn apart by railgun slugs and rockets.
An analysis with EFT showed that, under ideal conditions, the Rifter could outdamage my Tristan at less than ~3 km while it’s damage quickly faded past that range while my Tristan’s rockets and railguns could apply steady damage out to 8 km. Even if he had loaded Barrage the amount of damage would not have been sufficient to bring him a win. As long as I kept the Rifter between 3 and 8 km, a victory was the only possible outcome.
After a good fight and a bit of analysis, my confidence level is up and I’m ready to try it again. I just need to find another suitable target.